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Lifelong Learners: Becoming a Leader of Cultural Change
As Dr. Rachel Ivory walks through the huge mail processing and distribution center in Los Angeles, an employee calls out, “Hey, there’s the engagement ambassador!” Encounters like this, which happen often, never fail to make the 2009 Master of Public Administration (MPA) and 2017 PhD in Public Policy and Administration graduate smile.
For the past 2 years of her 30-year career with the United States Postal Service, Ivory has been the engagement ambassador, training managers and supervisors to create a safer, better workplace for their employees. But her path to her current position as a leader of cultural change in the Postal Service began after she graduated from high school in LA and moved to Roanoke, Virginia, to live with her grandparents.
“I had applied for a job with the Postal Service, but since I hadn’t heard back from them, I decided to follow the path of my uncles and grandfather and join the Army,” Ivory says. “Right after I signed my commitment papers, I was offered a job with the Postal Service. I didn’t want to let that opportunity slip by, so I switched to the Army Reserve and started working as a distribution clerk at the post office in Roanoke.”
As she worked her way up in the Postal Service—eventually becoming the manager of learning, development, and diversity for her district—she was also advancing through the ranks of the military, despite becoming disabled after an injury.
By the time she retired from the Army Reserve after 14 years, she had received seven promotions and attained the rank of sergeant first class. As if two careers weren’t enough to keep Ivory busy, she was also working toward earning her college degree and raising a family.
“Learning has always been important to me,” Ivory says. “As soon as I finished my undergraduate degree, I was ready to get my master’s. I looked at several programs in public administration, but Walden’s MPA curriculum was the only one that had a real policy focus.”
After earning her master’s degree, Ivory was ready for the next step and re-enrolled for her PhD in Public Policy and Administration.
“The skills and knowledge I gained at Walden helped me obtain my positions as engagement ambassador, acting human resources manager responsible for 10,000 employees, and an acting district labor relations manager,” she says. “My cultural competency course was one of the most powerful courses I took because, at the Postal Service, our employees come from a wide variety of backgrounds and cultures. Learning how to build diverse teams and communicate with people from different backgrounds helps me ensure all views are represented and we get the benefit of the insights each employee brings to the table.”
Although Ivory plans to retire from the Postal Service in the next 5 to 7 years, it won’t be the end of her career. She would like to continue the research she did for her doctorate on post-traumatic stress disorder in combat veterans by working with the Department of Veterans Affairs, as well as teaching at a college or university.
“I was also attracted to Walden’s mission of social change, something that’s always been part of my life,” Ivory says. “One voice can make a lot of change, and Walden has given me a strong voice. I don’t plan to stop using that any time soon.”
— Susan Walker
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